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Federal money withheld from “sanctuary cities” back in play

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A lectern with the seal of the Department of Justice on it.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

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The U.S. Department of Justice has repealed a Trump-era policy that cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in grants to sanctuary cities. Those cities limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities. In 2017, the Trump administration said some federal funding would be withheld unless cities allowed federal authorities access to detainees to inquire about their immigration status.

Here’s what this could mean for municipal budgets.

Many cities and states get what are called Byrne grants to help pay for things like more training for local police officers.

“So the practical effect of this is that money that the Justice Department retained as of 2017 and 2018, Byrne grants that have not been released to those jurisdictions, they’ve got to release the money now,” said Meryl Justin Chertoff, who teaches state and local government policy at Georgetown University.

She said for some jurisdictions, these grants are the biggest source of federal law enforcement funding.

Benjamin Gonzalez O’Brien at San Diego State University said sanctuary communities didn’t adhere to the policy, putting that grant money at risk because they wanted to promote cooperation between local immigrant communities and police to help solve crimes.

“And, of course, that cooperation is not going to happen if local law enforcement is participating in immigration enforcement,” Gonzalez O’Brien said.

He thinks this repeal signals a shift away from the feds asking local law enforcement to enforce U.S. immigration laws.

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